I grew up eating verenikas, a crescent moon shaped pocket of boiled dough, stuffed with creamy potatoes, and topped with sweet caramelized onions and sour cream. Since I left Montreal, I don’t really see them around anywhere. You don’t realize what is special to the place that you live until you leave, and verenikas is definitely one of those things. Also, once I left I became a lot more nostalgic about the food. I don’t imagine regularly buying verenikas if I lived in Montreal, but it’s something I think about now that I don’t. Anyway, now when I come back to Calgary, my suitcase is filled with bagels, cheese bagels (these are next on my list to tackle!) and verenikas. It is not a sustainable model for addressing my food cravings.
I’m in a dough kind of mood. I’ve been craving carbs lately and have also been eager to try and make all sorts of doughs from scratch. A few nights ago, I saw some contestants on Masterchef Australia cook some bao and a lightbulb went off in my head. I had never thought of making bao, and haven’t actually been able to enjoy them very much. If you’ve never heard of bao before, they are basically steamed buns filled with some sort of filling, found all over China. There is a wide variety of bao: ranging from 5-10 inches in diameter, filled with various meat, bean paste and even soup broth (if you’re in Vancouver, the xiaolongbao at Lin’s are award-winning)!
My strategy to come up with a meal when I don’t know what to make (i.e. almost every night) is to think to myself, “ok, pick: grain, vegetable, sauce” and then I normally come up with something decent. For example, soba noodles, broccoli and peanut sauce or quinoa, sweet potato and miso tahini. Anyway, you get the idea. Sometimes though, it is fun to make your own ‘grain’ component. This is probably one of the easiest, most no-fail type of recipes that you can go for. I would also say that it is fast, but there is a little resting time involved. Regardless, there is very little work on your end, especially when you think of alternatives like kneading pasta dough or making gnocchi.
Gnudi is pretty exciting. Let’s first address the fact that it is in fact a food called gnudi. I think that is pretty special. I always heard it referred to on shows like Top Chef, but never actually looked into what it was. Thankfully, Pinterest, sparked my interest of the dish once again. Well, let me tell you, gnudi is pretty much gnocchi-made-easy. Instead of potato, it is made with ricotta. You don’t have to worry about overworking the dough or boiling and cooling the potatoes. Basically, you make a ball of ricotta, parmesan, some egg and flour and end up with a tender ball of goodness that straddles the world of dumpling and gnocchi, boiled until cooked through and slathered in tomato sauce.